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How Niche eCommerce is Leveraging AI/AR

Consumer behavior and perceptions have been immensely affected by the current crisis. Personal safety and hygiene have emerged as a top concern since the lockdown began. Consumers are afraid of entering crowded stores and have postponed major purchase decisions. eCommerce is a key area that has seen exponential growth in multiple facets. Consumers are fulfilling much of their needs online, from food purchases to banking.

The beauty industry needs to evolve and deliver an experience at par with what brick-and-mortar stores in order to thrive. They have turned to embrace emerging technologies like Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence to stay in business. I have attempted at sharing examples of how it is being done:

1. Augmented reality enables visualizing cosmetic products

The primary area wherein brick-and-mortar stores win hands-down is the look-and-feel physical factor. Brands have moved to virtual try-on tools to imitate the offline experience.

  • ModiFace, a L’Oréal web-portal, developed an AR-powered virtual try-on experience for makeup.
  • Olay, an international PnG beauty brand, developed Skin Advisor back in 2017. It is based on deep learning and recommends products post-analysis of a user’s photograph wherein it attempts to find characteristics of their skin. It has been used by over 6 million people, of which over 94 percent were satisfied with the recommendations.
  • Maybelline also has a “Virtual Try-On” tool wherein you could apply and compare up to four makeup products at the same time. A before and after comparison is also displayed.
  • Sephora’s Virtual Artist works on the same lines as Olay’s Skin Advisor – It analyses facial features and recommends products. Over 200 million shades had been tried using it by 2018.

Key enablers

  • 88 percent of mid-sized businesses have deployed AR to some extent (Deloitte)
  • 66 percent of respondents desire AR tools for shopping assistance (Google Consumer AR Survey)
  • 60 percent of people would like the ability to be able to visualize how and where a product fits into their lives (Google Consumer AR Survey)
  • A 90 percent increase in conversion rates is seen for consumers who engage with AR compared to those who do not 

2. Artificial intelligence being used for personalized product recommendations

The primary paint point with cosmetic products is their safety and effectiveness.

  • Proven Skin Care – a search engine based on the skin genome database wherein safety information about beauty products is available. Effectiveness and safety of about 20,238 ingredients for skincare, information about 100,000 individual products, 8 million testimonials from actual users, and insights from over 4,000 scientific papers.
  • EWG’s Skin Deep lists a hazard scale for over 70,000 products from a multitude of brands (2,374 brands) with information about 9,000 common ingredients.
  • Function of Beauty uses machine learning to produce hair care products with ingredients customized according to user’s needs, specific to their hair type.

Key enablers

  • 40 percent of consumers are more likely to browse recommended items based on the customized information 
  • 47 percent of consumers buy from marketplaces like Amazon if the brand they are currently visiting doesn’t recommend products 
  • Organic Beauty Market globally to reach a whopping $54 billion by 2027 primarily due to safety of ingredients (Statista)

Emerging technologies are expensive bets

Although these virtual AR-based try-on tools based might seem simple to implement, they aren’t. It starts off with 3D product photography or a model that mimics an actual life-like product application. Doing so inaccurately would lead to a sub-optimal experience and a set of annoyed customers who would never use the tool again. You need to hit the ground running – a tool that needs minimal improvement. Thankfully, there are companies offering SaaS-based solutions to ease implementation.

This space is evolving at a herculean pace – it is no more a novelty product feature but functionality users now expect. It has moved from being limited to high-ticket ventures like real estate to being used to showcase normal products. The beauty industry is definitely a huge beneficiary (L’Oréal actually increased their sales by 49% post implementing AR) but no one’s stopping you from jumping the bandwagon. Start exploring the AR options specific to your audience and you will definitely find a tool that streamlines the process.

 

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